Ceci n'est pas une pipe (René Magritte, 1926)

ENG 350

Fall 2007

Dr. Tamara O'Callaghan

Email: ocallaghant@nku.edu
Telephone: 858-572-6977

Office: LA 547
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1:00 to 2:00 pm,
and by appointment





Course Description
Required Texts & Materials
Assignments & Their Evaluation
The Writing Center

Course Workload
Missed & Late Assignments

Plagiarism & Academic Honesty
Important Final Note


This course will introduce students to many of the critical perspectives and theories that enliven contemporary literary and cultural studies. Included on our lit-crit-hit-parade will be Structuralism, Post-structuralism, Postmodernism, Feminist literary studies, Queer Studies, Ethnic and Race Studies, Postcolonialism, Marxism, Psychoanalytic literary studies, Reader-Response, Cultural Studies, and Rhizomatics.

If all this sounds intimidating, do not worry. We will be testing these theories on short stories, novels, plays, films, pop culture…and each other. As we examine these different ways of reading and thinking about reading, we will be asking ourselves the following questions:

What is "literature"?
Why do we study it?
In what ways, if any, are literary texts different from other types of cultural productions?
What is "theory?"
Can literary theories be applied to non-literary texts?
How do literature and criticism relate to other aspects of culture, such as gender, race, class, and nation?
What is at stake in choosing one critical/theoretical methodology over another?

Student Learning Outcomes.  By the end of the semester, you should be able to

Assessment Statement.  To demonstrate that you have acquired these skills, you will complete two tests, several oral and written projects (including a major research paper), and a variety of exercises to be assessed according to the specific grading rubric of NKU.

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Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan, eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
Nota bene : You must purchase the 2nd edition; it includes different readings from that of the 1st edition.

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: MLA, 2003.
Nota bene : Every English major should own a copy of this book!

Be prepared to spend about $25.00 for printing articles, photocopying research materials, and purchasing headphones with a microphone.


Any edition of the Shakespeare and Shelley texts will do, but if you need to purchase copies, I have listed inexpensive editions that are currently in print.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Signet Classics, 1999.
---. The Tempest. Signet Classics, 1998.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Penguin Classics, 2003.
Jackson, Shelley. Patchwork Girl. Eastgate Systems, 1995.

* This hypertext novel is both Windows and Mac compatible; you can purchase it directly from Eastgate or ask Campus Book & Supply to order it for you; otherwise, consult the copy at the Media Center in Steely Library.

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Informed participation, weekly assignments, contributions to course blog, etc. 15%
Podcasting Project 10%
Annotated Bibliography 15%
Research Essay 25%
Midterm 15%

Final Exam


NOTA BENE: Failure to complete any assignment will result in an automatic "F" for your final grade

Podcasting Project:
Students will produce an audio podcast focusing on a critical theorist. Podcasts will be approximately 5 minutes in length and include a relevant bibliography as part of the audio. When grading these projects, I will give considerable weight to the effectiveness of the presentation as well as to content.

Annotated Bibliography:
An annotated bibliography provides complete bibliographical information about a collection of works on a particular subject or topic and includes an annotation—that is, a brief descriptive and critical statement of approximately 150 words of what the work contains. Annotated bibliographies are tools that can be used to keep track of articles you have read and to help you determine a suitable topic for your research paper. You will be expected to produce such an annotated bibliography of 15 articles and essays selected from the periodicals, reference texts, and books available through Steely Library and the GCLC.

Research Essay:
You are to write an academic research essay (6-8 pages) on a topic of your choice that focuses on the theoretical readings for this course. Your analysis of the theoretical approach should be grounded in the application of that theory to a literary text of your choice; however, the literary text you select cannot be one which we read for class. Please also note the word "research" in the title. Regardless of your essay topic, you must use secondary sources (minimum of four) with proper citations throughout your essay and a Works Cited list in current MLA format. Appropriate secondary sources can be found in the assigned readings for the course, in Steely Library, in other libraries (University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Library downtown), and even on the internet. When marking your essay, I shall assess (a) your unified, specific, and coherent thesis; (b) your mastery of standard American English, including grammar, punctuation, and syntax; (c) your critical use of supporting evidence from your primary and secondary sources; (d) your documentation of this material in correct and current MLA form; and (e) your careful and thorough handling of the topic's complexities. A draft of the paper is due 2 weeks before the final version is to be turned in to me.

Method of Evaluation:
Major assignments will be graded acc
ording to the grading standards set out by the Writing Instruction Program at NKU:

Outstanding, Unique, Exceptional Achievement A
Exceeds All or Most Expectations B
Meets All or Most Expectations C
Meets on Some or Few Expectations D/F

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The Writing Center will assist you, "free" of charge, with any part of your writing process: creating a topic, generating ideas, developing a research strategy, drafting, revising, etc. I strongly encourage you to visit the Writing Center at least once during the semester for additional help and feedback. Students who go to the Writing Center at least twice (for two different papers) will receive extra credit . When you go, bring your assignment sheet and any materials you are working on. The Writing Center is located in the Learning Assistance Center, Founders' Hall 209 (tel. 859-572-5475). You will need to go in person to make your very first appointment with them, but then can make future appointments online at TutorTrac.

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Always bring the anthology and other relevant material to every class. No exceptions. You will need to have all resources available to you for class discussion to be focused and valuable.

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Since this course is a standard, 3-credit hour, upper-division course, the workload will follow the 3-for-1 rule: for every hour you spend in class, expect to spend a minimum of 3 hours outside of class reading, writing, researching, or studying.

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Informed participation consists of your attendance, preparation for class, and meaningful contributions to class discussions. Regular attendance is expected and essential for the successful completion of the course. Since this course meets only once a week, three (3) absences will result in an F for the course. I will take attendance at the beginning of class and after the break. Leaving class at the break will count as ½ absence.

Want to know why I--as well as many other university instructors--think attendance is important? Read the following articles (PDF format):

  1. Dr. Jonathan Reynolds (History), " Attendance is part of the price students pay for public education," The Northerner (26 Jan. 2005).
  2. Debbie Behler (NKU student), " One's attendance can affect others," The Northerner (2 Feb. 2005).

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Simply put, I will not accept late work . The syllabus, assignments, and due dates for this course are sufficiently detailed that there is NO reason for any work to be submitted late. Due dates may only be missed without penalty in extraordinary circumstances (i.e. a medical emergency for which you can provide me with a doctor's note within one week of your absence). If a student misses a class and submits the assignment to the instructor's office or email account after the class, the assignment is considered late. If a student knows he/she must miss class, it is the student's responsibility to get the assignment to the instructor before the start of class or arrange for a fellow student to hand in the assignment during class on the absent student's behalf. Computer malfunctions cannot be an excuse, so please do not wait until the last moment to print an assignment and be sure to keep backup copies on a flash drive, CD-ROM, floppy disk, etc.

However, should you find yourself in particular crisis, personal or otherwise, that compromises your academic success in this or any other course at NKU, I would urge you to make use of the services of the Office of Student Retention & Assessment (SRA). You can contact the SRA in the University Center, Room 352, or call 859-572-6497 for more information. Further details may be found at the SRA website.

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Please turn off cell phones and pagers for the duration of the class. If a cell phone or pager rings during class, the guilty student will be required to perform a 15-second dance at the front of the room In order to maintain an environment that fosters open discussion of appropriate topics in an inviting atmosphere, discriminatory or blatantly rude language will not be permitted, nor will personal attacks on any individual. You are responsible for being respectful and courteous in class discussion and in writing, including your email messages. It's the right thing to do-plus, showing respect to your audience will make you more persuasive.

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In A Dictionary of the English Language of 1755, Samuel Johnson defines plagiarism as "Theft: literary adoption of the thoughts or works of another." All work submitted must be written exclusively for this course and is subject to the NKU Student Honor Code. The use of sources (ideas, quotations, argument structures, and paraphrases) must be properly documented. In addition, students cannot turn in work written for another course without express permission from both instructors. Plagiarism and other forms of cheating will not be tolerated. If you are found to have violated the Honor Code, you will receive an “F” for the course and be reported to both the Chair of the Department and the Dean of Students for further disciplinary action.

The Honor Code is a commitment to the highest degree of ethical integrity in academic conduct, a commitment that, individually and collectively, the students of Northern Kentucky University will not lie, cheat, or plagiarize to gain an academic advantage over fellow students or avoid academic requirements.

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Students with disabilities who require accommodations (academic adjustments, auxiliary aids or services, etc.) for this course must register with the Disability Services Office (DSO). Please contact the DSO in the University Center, Room 320, immediately, or call 859-572-6373 for more information. Verification of your disability is required by the DSO for you to receive reasonable academic accommodation. Further details can be found at the DSO website.

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By deciding to stay in this section of ENG 350, you are agreeing to all parts of this syllabus. In fairness to everyone, the syllabus must apply equally to all students without exception. This course syllabus is in accordance with the NKU Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. All of the above is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

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Revised 28 November 2007
Tamara O'Callaghan
Northern Kentucky University